Lock Bumping | What Is It and How to Prevent It

Jackson, MS – On a chilly February night, a woman stretched out on her couch and settled in for a relaxing evening of watching her favorite TV shows.  While she was resting on her couch she was suddenly startled by an intruder.  The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, believes the trespasser used a method called “lock bumping” to invade her home.

Lock bumping is a lock picking procedure using a specially cut key that works just like a master key.  This method works on almost all pin tumbler locks – the same locks used in more than 90% of American homes.

“It was very quick,” the woman said.  “It took less than a minute for him to get in; he stepped through the kitchen, and as soon as he saw me he took one step back and ran out.”

This technique, also called “key bumping” and “rapping,” has been around for more than 50 years.  It rapidly gained popularity in Europe for decades before seeping into underground American lock picking.

Most homeowners (and most locksmiths) are still unfamiliar with the easy-to-learn method.  However, in 2005, information about lock bumping started appearing on the Internet.  Now, any curious amateur lock picker can find how-to articles, step-by-step videos, bump-key kits, and even the actual lock bumping keys online.

“What a bump key is, is a regular key modified, filed down,” says Dennis McEntire of Bay Area Locks.  “It will then fit and open any lock that it can slide into.  It works on just basic physics.”

Keys for pin locks have grooves cut at varying depths from zero to nine.  These grooves on the keys correspond with the pins in the lock.  A lock might require a key with three grooves cut at zero, two, and four to move the corresponding pins into the unlocked position.

Bump keys – also referred to as “999 keys” – are designed so all the cuts are at the maximum depth of nine.  When the key slides into the lock and is hit or “bumped,” it momentarily jars all of the pins into a position that allows the bolt to be turned.  In a matter of moments, anyone can enter your home without leaving a trace.

That’s the biggest concern with lock bumping:  no sign of forced entry
Victims of lock bumping have an extremely difficult time filing insurance claims for stolen and damaged items because intrusion is nearly impossible to prove.  Usually, in lock bumping cases, the lock isn’t damaged in the slightest.  Naturally, insurance companies are wary to pay out for such claims, making victims more vulnerable.

To prevent lock bumping, security experts recommend installing high security locks that don’t have bumpable pins.  A simple chain or sliding lock will offer protection when you are in the house; and good lighting around all your entrances will also deter potential criminals.

For advanced home security against lock bumping, install a home security system and actually use it.

Home security systems come in a wide range of styles and prices.  Many home security systems feature security cameras.  Cameras are not only a visual deterrent to prospective intruders; they also catch criminals in the act and preserve the evidence for potential trials.

Wireless home security alarms are easy to install and feature built-in sirens.  These alarms systems are particularly useful to renters because they can be removed quickly and easily and reinstalled at a new location.

Finally, alarm-monitoring systems offer an extra layer of home security.  Even security measures like lighting, alarm decals, and security cameras can’t guarantee that your home will never be burglarized.  For an extra layer of protection, consider an alarm monitoring system.  Not only will the alarm go off, but with a monitoring system, the authorities will be alerted and so will you if you are away from your home.

As lock bumping becomes more prevalent, the general public needs to take notice – and take measures to protect against it.

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